European Vacation ’16: Days 6 and 7 — Sarajevo and Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina

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Day 6 and 7: October 1 and 2

What a weekend!

SATURDAY – Our first morning in Bosnia started with the comped breakfast at our Residence Inn (by Marriott AND YES, here in Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovina, moderate Muslim nation… there was a Book of Mormon in my night stand). I’m not sure what was better – the food, or probably the chefl, Adnan, so excited to see us he gave us high-fives. Also, some really cute kids were there and as you all probably know – I love to try and win over the little ones. Let’s just say I eventually earned a high five myself from this cute little guy and big smiles from his baby sister… My day made, it could have ended right there and I would have been happy.

Instead, we kept the joy alive by attending the Noon wedding of Adi and Malka. Adi was a counselor for Global Children’s Organization (GCO), working the summer camps for children of the war-torn Balkans with Erin and my In-laws, Carol and Fred. As I’ve said – Erin and her parents formed very tight, family like bonds with the people they worked with for years as Board Members and camp volunteers for GCO. To understand the degree of affection the Bosnian in-country volunteers still have for Erin, Carol, and Fred, just know this: we didn’t come here for a wedding. We were already coming to Europe, including Sarajevo, and Adi was going to eventually get married soon …. He MOVED UP the wedding. It was a simple but very classy civil service down at “City Hall.” Malka was beautiful in an elegant cream/white dress, and Adi very modern in a tight flower-print shirt, bow tie, and 3 piece suite. They are a couple clearly made for each other, and were all smiles. The wedding was in Bosnian, but it was clearly loose as an occasional joke was made by either the wedding party or via cat calls from the audience. To picture Adi, by the way, just picture a younger, Bosnian Andy Garcia. Dead Ringer. Right down to the occasionally scratchy voice.

Directly from the ceremony, we headed to lunch. It was a blast. A duo played live music and we dined on a generous spread of traditional Bosnian dishes. The sparkling water was flowing big time for me (by the way – whatever this brand of mineral water is here, we need some kind of “trade deal” to bring it stateside. Let’s just say I’m DWTMWTD [down with Todd’s mineral water trade deal]). There was some small-group-awkward-dancing and good moods all around. Also – did I mention that Adi and Malka brought their dog, Mishko, dawning a bow tie, to both the wedding and the landing where we enjoyed lunch? Oh, yeah. I love this country.


SUNDAY – We headed to the airport after breakfast (and our warm greeting from Adnan) and picked up a Mercedes van for the full family trek to Mostar, a historic city about 2 hours south of Sarajevo. The tires were near bald, a fact not scary to me until it rained heavily later that afternoon. The woman attending to us looked like someone who, when not working for Avis, should be challenging one of the Williams sisters on a tennis court. By the way – Balkan people can be QUITE TALL. Men AND women. No wonder Serbia almost took us in hoops at the Olympics this year. I digress…

The road to Mostar is beautiful, and we crossed one or two bridge crossings over a beautiful river reminiscent of the bridge where Edward Norton makes his move against the rest of the gang in “the Italian Job.” And tunnels. Plenty of good tunnels. In fact, most of our drive was adjacent to this beautifully blue/green river, which powers 4 hydro-electric stations and in its wider portions that look more like a lake, serves as a prime spot for recreation and prime riverside real estate. The mountains (which you may have seen in Sunday’s facebook post) were a mix of gray/cream-colored rock and trees. You could believe we were in the American west.

In Mostar, we were greeted by Alma Elezovic, a GCO/Camp alum who also happens to be a renowned professional tour guide who’s been featured by travel guru Rick Steves in his books and PBS travel show. She walked us through the “Old City,” (I think every European city has an “Old City” in it [And why wouldn’t they all?]) with its magnificent cobble-stoned streets and lively locals and tourists. We crossed over the famous Mostar Bridge, which has always been a symbol of unity between the Muslim/Bosnian side of the city, and the Christian/Croatian side. Built in 1566, the bridge was destroyed by the Croats during the bloody Balkan war in the early 1990s. It was rebuilt using some of the original limestone that was blown into the river below, reopening in 2004. On the other side, we were presented with a very authentic lunch outdoors, but under canopy. This was most advantageous, as it had started to pour down a steady stream of rain. A couple of quick additions to lunch:

  • I finally enjoyed my first baklava of the trip, and it was GL-ORIOUS!! Does it get better than baklava, by the way? Sure, here, it’s like having a Snickers. But to us Americans – it’s a rare treat and BOY WAS IT GOOD HERE.
  • They frequently ran about the restaurant, ducking for cover from the rain and looking for scraps. Apparently, they (along with scores of dogs) are not wild. Instead, the community cares for them as a whole. If the dog or cat has their ear tagged, that apparently means that someone took them to the Vet and had them examined, spayed/neutered, and immunized. Now, how we know that happens on a REGULAR BASIS wasn’t explained. We can only hope and trust. But the cats were cute, so who cares.

After lunch, Alma and her husband Ermin took us to the coffee house operated by their son, “Jaz.” We were treated in a lesson of how one brews AND slowly enjoys Bosnian coffee (which, again, comes in something smaller than a Dixie cup [disclaimer: the Koch Brothers own Dixie – please don’t actually buy Dixie products]. We enjoyed the very cozy environs of the coffee shop and tried to wait out the rain. But it wouldn’t stop, so we hit the road “back home” to Sarajevo, where Fred was a most cautious and exceedingly capable driver. Not a single hydroplane on these most treacherous roads. You would think my father-in-law was a professional driver.

Looking forward to more time visiting with Adi and Malka, and Fedja, over the next two days!

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